Despite their size and apparent ruggedness, cars are actually fairly delicate pieces of machinery. If a part or two is installed by an inexperienced or inept hand, it's almost certain that the car will perform poorly afterwards. That's why many car owners have trouble looking for reliable mechanics, often depending on trial and error. If, however, your car repairs are done by a mechanic who has certification from the ASE, you won't be having that problem anytime soon.
What's the ASE?
In the same way that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets a high standard for manufacturers and companies to meet, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) sets the bar for the automotive service industry. The organization's mission is to "improve the quality of vehicle repair and service," and they do this by giving certification to properly trained and qualified professionals.
Don't underestimate the testing administered by the ASE for certification. It's a very stringent procedure, and the entire process of preparing for that test isn't unlike the SAT for high school seniors. It's a very big thing in the automotive service industry, and having that ASE certification is definitely a major credential for any mechanic. ASE is a name that has long been associated with high standards and excellence, and the organization goes to great lengths to protect that reputation.
What's In It for You?
Were it not for the ASE, it's very likely that the automotive service industry would've gone topsy-turvy. The ASE provided some semblance of structure and standards by which mechanics have to abide. Consequently, you get better and more consistent service as a customer, even when you decide to transfer mechanics.
A mechanic that has earned ASE certification has proven himself (or herself) capable of handling most of the tasks involved in repairing and maintaining a car. Only competent and skilled mechanics are able to pass the ASE testing and certification procedure. Thus, when you're presented with ASE certification, you know that you'll be getting your money's worth in terms of service.
Who's Qualified, Who's Not?
Because of the prestige and value attached to certification from the ASE, few mechanics hide the fact that they've earned their own badge. You can easily spot certified mechanics walking around, sporting their ASE patches on their clothes or coveralls. Establishments that offer auto repair also prominently advertise the fact that they have ASE-certified mechanics, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding them.
You should try as much as possible to get your car serviced at auto shops that employ only ASE-certified mechanics. Such shops do exist, and their high employment requirements are as good a guarantee you can get for excellent service and competent staff. You also get the assurance that whatever job you'd like done will be accomplished correctly the first time around. However, expect to pay more at those shops because their rates are invariably higher than those at uncertified establishments. If you don't want to compromise quality, though, paying for mechanics certified by the ASE will definitely be worth the extra cash.